Cook While You’re Alive

Watch this video.

I was riding the train Friday and the inside was plastered with these new Seamless ads that rag on cooking. I had spoken to few people that day (okay, none if we don’t count cats) and the ads got me riled up. In spite of myself, I tweeted at a #brand.

I wasn’t the first to note that the ads are thoughtless and regressive. Later, some Snake Person whose job is it is to tweet as @Seamless responded to me: “It was not our intention to offend anyone and we sincerely apologize if we did so.”

Since, I’ve been chewing on that word choice, “offend.”

Advertisers going after “cooking” is nothing new. In fact much of the last century of American cuisine has been defined by corporate interests seeking to convince Americans to eat cheap processed garbage and one way to do it was to make ads saying that cooking is a nuisance and a waste of time. They were and are very successful. The results have been devastating for our bodies and our soil and our souls.

I was thinking about whether ‘offense’ was the right word for what the ads made me feel when I read this phenomenal Francis Lam Times Magazine story about Edna Lewis.

What’s radical about Lewis, Lam shows in this story, is that she, like Waters and so many after her, sought to push back against the loss of cuisine, which is to say, a loss of caring about food. Because as this profile so beautifully reminds, food isn’t just food. Food is a way to transport us to a time and a place and set of values.

(Lam is right, in my case at least: I hadn’t heard of Lewis before. But I am glad I did and I am so looking forward to reading and cooking from her book.)

.@Seamless: I wasn’t ‘offended’ that your ad is ignorant. The problem here isn’t me; it’s you. Mind you: I order in and eat out and sometimes scarf Pad Thai from a styrofoam clam with a spork. But I cook. My aunt Peggy taught me to cook and so did my father and Ina Garten and various friends along the way. I come up with things I want to try and I go to the butcher and to the greengrocer. I take risks. I solve crises and improvise. I taste things as I go. I gather people together and open wine and commune with them. I make things that, hopefully, and sometimes briefly, make us feel better.

.@Seamless, your ad is wrong because I don’t think you can cook when you’re dead.

I think you can cook while you’re alive and that’s it.

Perhaps the best thing I read this week was a comic published on Rookie about self harm by Esme Blegvad called The Big Scary Ugly Crazy Thing:

This Awl piece about lies writers tell themselves by Alexander Chee isn’t new but I read it for the first time recently. Most pieces that espouse to give writers advice, especially in listicle form, are not good. This is a rare exception because Alex actually knows what he’s talking about.

And another list that’s much better than it needs to be: this Guardian post by Sophia Benoit suggesting women’s magazine stories she’d actually like to read:

The beloved sports and culture website Grantland was unceremoniously offed by its parent company ESPN this week, something that wasn’t surprising but was sad. I wasn’t an everyday reader of Grantland, and part of me never truly got over the Dr. V tragedy, but they were a great site that a lot of excellent writers and editors worked for. Their feature stories were of a quality that, especially a few years ago, was not common online. Here are several great ones.

The ‘net’s gone nuts since talking about how this happened, which is to say, talking about the intersection of money and writing and the fact that if you have big money funding boutique things that big money can, yes, take it all away. The smartest takes I saw were by The Toast co-founder Nicole Cliffe:

Dear readers: it’s November, which means it’s that time of year I hanker to re-watch Brad Neely’s masterwork, Wizard People, and I invite you to join in this tradition. If you don’t know what Wizard People is, I could explain that it’s a redub of the first Harry Potter movie Neely did some years ago despite, it seemed, his not having a robust knowledge of the Harry Potter franchise, or you could just click the link and watch Chapter 1 and if you’re like WHAT IS THIS IT’S GREAT, great watch the whole thing, and if you’re like WHAT IS THIS IT’S DUMB, I don’t know how to help you.

PSA: Neely recently made a Bernie Sanders video:


p.s. Here’s an excellent way to spend a whole day: make feijoada, and serve with collard greens and rice and pão de queijo.

p.p.s. If you want to learn to cook but don’t know where to start, I recommend the Times Learn to Cook page. Great videos and such on there.

p.p.p.s. As promised, here’s my Halloween costume.

p.p.p.p.s. Pay your rent.

Author of A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE (Scribner, 18) | Host of podcast MAD CHAT ( | | they/them

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